This pamphlet is the text of a public lecture given under the auspices of the Evangelism Committee of the Southwest Protestant Reformed Church. The lecture was well received and many cassette tapes of the address were distributed. There were, however, requests that the lecture also be printed. Because of the distinct advantages which this format has for consideration of the material presented, the Evangelism Committee has gladly complied with these requests.
The matter of which Bible translation is to be accepted by and used among the people of God is a matter of highest priority. For centuries the King James Version was the undisputed version of choice among English-speaking Christians. In the last several decades, however, several other English translations have appeared, all of them vying for acceptance on the ground that they are an improvement over the KJV. One of the most popular of these recent translations is the New International Version. The NIV has gained a wide acceptance among conservative Christians. It, more than any other previous translation, has become a serious competitor of the KJV.
But ought this to be? Should we set aside the KJV in deference to the NIV? Does the NIV deserve to be preferred above the KJV? Is the NIV an accurate and trustworthy translation, fit for use in congregational worship and personal devotion? These and other questions are examined in this pamphlet.
NIV or KJV?
It has always been a conviction of the Reformed faith that God's people should have the Bible in their own language. One of the great accomplishments of the Reformation was the impetus it gave to the translating of the Scriptures into the language of the common people, whether German, Dutch, English, or whatever other language.
The father of the English Bible, William Tyndale, gave expression to this conviction in his well-known retort to an ignorant Roman Catholic Church cleric of his day: "If God spare my life, ere many years pass I will cause that a boy that driveth the plough shall know more of the Scriptures than thou dost." 1It was Tyndale's ambition to translate the Scriptures into English so that the "ordinary" believer might be able to read and understand Scripture, even the young lads working the fields. Tyndale produced the first printed English New Testament in 1525. In October of 1536 his efforts were rewarded by martyrdom.
Well known is Martin Luther's work of translating the Bible into his native German. Much of the work was done while Luther was in hiding at the Wartburg Castle to which he had been spirited for safekeeping after his defense at the Diet of Worms. A. Skevington Wood comments: "He retired as a fugitive from persecution for the sake of the truth. He emerged with a weapon which would continue to fight the battles of the Lord long after he had been laid to rest." 2 Few other works in history have been as influential in shaping a people and a language as Luther's German Bible translation. Luther's Bible translation, and the principles he followed in his translating, became, like his work in so many other areas, the model that others would follow.
The conviction of the Reformation that God's people should have the Scriptures in their own language is expressed in the Westminster Confession Of Faith, Chapter 1, Paragraph 8:
"The Old Testament in Hebrew (which was the native language of the people of God of old), and the New Testament in Greek (which at the time of the writing of it was most generally known to the nations), being immediately inspired by God, and by His singular care and providence kept pure in all ages, are therefore authentical; so as in all controversies of religion the Church is finally to appeal unto them. But because these original tongues are not known to all the people of God who have right unto and interest in the Scriptures, and are commanded, in the fear of God, to read and search them, therefore they are to be translated into the language of every people unto which they come, that, the word of God dwelling plentifully in all, they may worship Him in an acceptable manner, and, through patience and comfort of the Scriptures, may have hope."
No one can dispute that the dominant English translation of the Bible is the King James Version (KJV), or as it is sometimes called, the Authorized Version. The KJV was not the first English Bible. Neither did it immediately supplant other English versions. When the Pilgrims landed in 1620 at Plymouth Rock, for example, it was not the 1611 King James Bible that they brought with them to the new world, but the Geneva Bible (1560), an outstanding English version in its own right.
Nevertheless, in a relatively short time after its publication in 1611, the KJV became the version of English-speaking Christians. For over 250 years, if one read the Bible in English, he read the KJV. It was not until the latter part of the 1800s, with the publication of the Revised Version, that the KJV had any serious competitors. Even then, the KJV remained the best-selling and most used English version.
However, in the last several decades the situation has changed. There has been a steady stream of new Bible translations and paraphrases pouring forth from the religious press, seemingly one to suit every fancy. Each one has been well marketed, promoted with the latest in sales techniques and advertising gimmicks.
One of the most popular of the recent English Bible versions is the NIV, the New International Version. The NIV has been touted for its freshness, its clarity, its faithfulness, as well as its superiority over the KJV. It is no exaggeration to say that the NIV has become the Bible of Evangelicals. The NIV has been able to supplant the KJV to an extent that no other version had been able up until now to do. Many Christians have begun using the NIV. Many churches have encouraged their members in its use and have removed their KJV Bibles from their pews and replaced them with the NIV.
But is this as it ought to be? Does the NIV really have compelling advantages over the KJV? Ought the NIV to displace the KJV as the version of choice among God's people? Has the KJV outlived its usefulness in the church? These are some of the questions we want to examine in this pamphlet.
WHAT IS THE NIV?
The history of the NIV begins with an "Interdenominational Bible Translation Conference" that was held in August of 1965 at Trinity Christian College in Palos Heights, Illinois. Already before this, exploratory study on the need for a new English translation had been done by committees from the Christian Reformed Church and the National Association of Evangelicals. The scholars attending this conference agreed on the need for such a new translation and the Committee On Bible Translation was appointed. This committee consisted of 15 scholars from different denominations and religious affiliations. The Committee On Bible Translation was entrusted with planning the entire project.
In 1967 the New York Bible Society (now the New York International Bible Society) agreed to sponsor and finance the work on the new translation. This made it possible to enlist the help of scholars from around the English-speaking world: the United States, Great Britain, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. Participating in the work were over one hundred Bible scholars, all of whom were reputed to be conservative and to hold to a high view of Scripture. The "Preface" to the NIV New Testament stated: "Certain conviction and aims have guided the translators. They are all committed to the full authority and complete trustworthiness of the Scriptures, which they believe to be God's Word in written form."
The financial backing of the New York Bible Society also made it possible to hire a full-time executive secretary. Dr. Edwin Palmer, then pastor of the Grandville Avenue Christian Reformed Church in Grand Rapids, Michigan, was selected to serve in this position.
The work was undertaken by scholars not only from around the English-speaking world, but "... from many different denominations — including Anglican, Assemblies of God, Baptist, Brethren, Christian Reformed, Church of Christ, Evangelical Free, Lutheran, Mennonite, Methodist, Nazarene, Presbyterian, Wesleyan and other churches..." (NIV, "Preface," p. 7). The work of translating was done interdenominationally, according to the translators, in order "... to safeguard the translation from sectarian bias" (NIV, "Preface," p. 7).
The printing of the new translation was entrusted to Zondervan Publishing. Zondervan has sole rights to the printing of the NIV. There are many different editions of the NIV. Every one of them is printed by Zondervan. Given the popularity of the NIV, Zondervan has tapped into a veritable gold mine.
The New Testament was released in September of 1973, with the name changed from the earlier projected name of A Contemporary Translation to the New International Version. In the meantime, work on the Old Testament continued. Isaiah was issued in 1975; Daniel in 1976; Proverbs and Ecclesiastes in 1977. The completed Bible was finally published in October of 1978. The total cost of the project is estimated to have been approximately two and a half million dollars.
From the beginning, the NIV was met with great enthusiasm. By December of 1978 over 1,200,000 copies had been sold. Since then, the NIV has undergone numerous reprintings, and many different specialized editions have been released.
TWO NOTEWORTHY FEATURES OF THE NIV
When one considers what the NIV is, at least two noteworthy features of it must be pointed out.
In the first place, the NIV New Testament purports to be based on an older and better text than the text that was the basis for the translation of the KJV. The "Preface" of the NIV begins: "The New International Version is a completely new translation of the Holy Bible made ... directly from the best available Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek texts."
By the time work was begun on the NIV, the thinking had become widespread that the Greek text of the KJV was a late and an inferior text, and that a couple of recently discovered, quite old, Greek manuscripts represented a much better text, a text much closer to the autographa (the originally inspired writings of the apostles). There was no dispute then, as there is no dispute today, that the text behind the KJV is the text of the vast majority of extant Greek manuscripts. For this reason this text is often referred to as the Majority Text (also the Received Text, or the Byzantine Text, or the Western Text). But the notion promoted by a number of Biblical scholars was that this other text was to be preferred.
Jack P. Lewis in his book, The English Bible from KJV to NIV, is representative of those who criticize the KJV on this score. He writes, "It is unfortunate in Bible transmission that the KJV was based on a late text rather than upon an early one.... To state that the text now available is superior to that of 1611 is to repeat a truism." 3
"But by now most persons have learned that there is no reason for using the KJV as the basis for comparison; the KJV was itself based on inferior manuscripts of the Bible. Without detracting from its beauty, and the significant impact it has had on the English-speaking world, the judgment must be made that the Hebrew and the Greek text used by the KJV is not as accurate as the text available today." 4
"Because of the discovery of ancient biblical manuscripts and the advance of the science of textual criticism, biblical scholars agree that today we have a much more accurate text of the Bible; that is, the text available to translators today more closely approximates the original writings of the biblical authors than the text used by the King James translators in the seventeenth century. This text developed by the textual critics has been used as the basis of the NIV." 5
The second noteworthy feature of the NIV is the fundamental principle employed by the translators in their work: the principle of "dynamic equivalence."
According to this theory of translating, the work of the translator is not so much to render the very words inspired by the Holy Spirit, in the form in which He inspired them, into the "receptor" language. Rather, it is his work to discover the "meaning" of the words, and then to convey that meaning in freely chosen words of his own and in the idiom of the day.
That this principle was followed by the NIV translators, they make clear in their "Preface." "The first concern of the translators has been the accuracy of the translation and its fidelity to the thought (notice that, not 'words' but 'thought', R.C.) of the biblical writers" (p. viii). Again, "... they have striven for more than a word-for-word translation. Because thought patterns and syntax differ from language to language, faithful communication of the meaning(not 'words' but 'meaning,' R.C.) of the writers of the Bible demands frequent modification in sentence structure and constant regard for the contextual meanings of words" (p. viii). The translators have aimed, we are told, at "... convey(ing) the sense..." of the text (p. ix).
"Question: What were your goals in translating?
Goddard: More than anything else we wanted to do full justice to the meaning (emphasis mine, R.C.) of Scripture while meeting the requirements of idiomatic modern English.
Question: What do you mean by 'idiomatic modern English'?
Goddard: We tried to avoid making a mechanical word-for-word rendition, which is the tendency in some versions that stress faithfulness to the original languages. Our translators always asked, 'Knowing what the original writer was trying to communicate (emphasis mine, R.C.), how would we say the same thing today?" 6
"It is interesting to note how the standards of accuracy have changed in the last several decades. When the principle of dynamic equivalence is adopted, accuracy no longer requires word-for-word translation. Whether or not certain words are omitted is determined primarily by what constitutes good English style. 7
The New International Version is a translation, not a paraphrase, yet it does not limit itself to a word-for-word translation. There is freedom in translation which contributes to ease of reading and understanding. But the freedom is restrained and NIV cannot be accused of imposing any strong bias on the translation. Although it uses the principle of dynamic equivalence more extensively and consequently is less of a word-for-word translation than the RSV, it remains an accurate translation. It is far superior to the Living Bible." 8
HOW OUGHT WE TO EVALUATE THE NIV?
This is what the NIV is, its history and the two noteworthy features of its translation. How, now, ought we to evaluate the NIV?
The Reformed Christian, in evaluating the NIV, cannot but conclude that it is weighed and found wanting.
This is true, first of all, in the matter of the allegedly older and better text on which the NIV is based. The presupposition is that older is necessarily better. But is this presupposition correct? Was it not the case that from the very beginning of the new dispensation there were those who corrupted the truth of the Word of God? Was it not true that the early church was involved in a fierce struggle for the truth of God's Word, especially for the truths of the Trinity and the deity of Jesus Christ? Was it not true that the heretics and various heretical groups produced their own translations of the Scriptures that were perverted to support their pet teachings, much like the Bible versions today of the Roman Catholic Church and the Jehovah's Witnesses? We know, for example, that this was precisely what the heretic Marcion did. What evidence is there to support the notion that a few manuscripts, chiefly two, lately discovered, contain a much more faithful text, a text much closer to the original? How can the vast majority of manuscripts, which have been preserved and up until recent times have been the basis of all the translations coming out of the Reformation, be so easily set aside?
This is the height of presumption! This is not scholarship, but scholarly conceit! More than this, it is a fundamental denial of the work of the Holy Spirit. Let me explain.
The Bible is the product of the work of the Holy Spirit, as the apostle Peter writes in IIPeter 1:20, 21: "Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the Scripture is of any private interpretation. For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost." There are many outstanding works of the Holy Spirit in connection with the Bible. Certainly there is the great work of the Spirit to inspire the human writers, so that what they wrote was the very Word of God without any error. Not only was there a work of the Holy Spirit in moving the human writers, but a work prior to that, preparing them to be the writers of the Word of God. There was the work of the Holy Spirit to cause the church to recognize the writings of Scripture as the Word of God, discerning between writings which were genuinely Holy Scripture and writings which were not genuine but in some instances claimed to be. There is the work of the Holy Spirit through the Scriptures in the individual Christian to cause him to understand the Scriptures and believe them.
But one very important work of the Holy Spirit was also to preserve the Scriptures in copying, in transmission, so that in every age and down to the present the church has had the Word of God. In the words of the Westminster Confession Of Faith, Chapter 1, Paragraph 8: "The Old Testament in Hebrew (which was the native language of the people of God of old), and the New Testament in Greek (which at the time of the writing of it was most generally known to the nations), being immediately inspired by God, and by His singular care and providence kept pure in all ages, are therefore authentical; so as in all controversies of religion the Church is finally to appeal unto them."
"These are the true Word of God, and through His gracious providence and infinite wisdom the stream of the life-giving water of God's inspired Word has come to us crystal clear.... the Bible is the inspired, inerrant and authoritative Word of God and there has been a gracious exercise of the Divine providence in its preservation and transmission." 9
This important aspect of the work of the Holy Spirit is denied by the notion that the text underlying the KJV, the Majority Text, is an inferior text and that the text underlying the NIV is far and away superior. We repudiate this contention!
WHAT OF THE PRINCIPLE OF 'DYNAMIC EQUIVALENCE'?
What about the principle of "dynamic equivalence"? This principle of translation is a fundamental sellout of the doctrine of Scripture's inspiration verbal, plenary inspiration.
All of the translators' assurances that they hold to a high view of Scripture, that they believe the Bible to be the very Word of God, fully authoritative and completely trustworthy, belie the facts. It simply is not so. They do not believe that the Bible, word-for-word, is the very Word of God. If they did, they could never have utilized the principle of dynamic equivalence in translating.
Out of their own mouths they are condemned. A concern to convey the "meaning" of Scripture rather than the very words of Scripture in translation? Avoiding stress on the original languages? Referring to the original writers as only "trying" to communicate the Word of God to men? Characterizing a translation that seeks to be faithful to the original words of Scriptures as "mechanical"? Aiming at understanding by the reader instead of faithfulness to the very words and form of the text?
This raises the fundamental question, "What is it that is to be translated? What is the task of the translator?" Is it to convey the "meaning" of Scripture, as he, the translator, understands that meaning? Or is it his task to transmit the very words of Scripture?
This raises the even more fundamental question, "What was it that the Holy Spirit inspired?" Did the Holy Spirit inspire only certain thoughts, concepts, Biblical-theological ideas? Or did the Holy Spirit inspire the very words and text of Holy Scripture? For a Reformed Christian to ask these questions ought to be to answer them. The translators of the NIV did not tremble at God's Word as they should have trembled (Is. 66:2).
It simply is not the business of translators to interpret. Interpretation needs to be done. That work is very important in the life of the Christian and in the life of the church. But that is not the calling of those who are supposed to be translating the Scriptures. The translators of the NIV would have done well to have assumed the attitude of Martin Luther in his work of translation. In a little treatise entitled, "On Translating: An Open Letter," Luther writes, explaining his work of translating the Bible into the German language: "But I preferred to do violence to the German language rather than depart from the words." 10
SPECIFIC CRITICISMS OF THE NIV
Now I want to take our evaluation of the NIV one step further and point out some specific instances of bad translation. This list is by no means exhaustive, but is illustrative.
First, the NIV seriously weakens Scripture's testimony to the deity of Christ. In the Gospel according to John and in John's epistles, rather than refer to Christ as the "only begotten Son" of God, the NIV describes Him as the "one and only" Son of God, dropping the significant word "begotten." Not only is it not true that Jesus is the "one and only" Son of God, since we are also the sons of God, but this is not faithful to the Greek text which uses the word "only begotten." This is a weakening of the truth of Christ's deity, since, as the Heidelberg Catechism points out in Lord's Day 13, the whole truth of the deity of Christ is implied in the description of Him as the "only begotten Son of God," in distinction from us men who are sons of God, not by nature, not out of the very Being of God, but by adoption.
This weakening of the deity of Christ is seen in the translation of ITimothy 3:16. Rather than read "God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory," the NIV reads simply "he was manifest...."
In Romans9:5 another outstanding testimony to Jesus' deity is weakened by the footnote in the NIV. The KJV reads, "Whose are the fathers, and of whom as concerning the flesh Christ came, who is over all, God blessed for ever. Amen." Christ is "God blessed for ever." The NIV footnote suggests alternatives: "Christ, who is over all. God be for ever praised!"; or, "Christ, God who is over all be for ever praised!" In both of these alternatives "God blessed forever" is separated from "Christ" and forms a separate doxology. Neither of the alternatives preserves the powerful assertion with respect to the deity of Christ.
In Micah5:2 the KJV translation "goings forth" is changed to "origins." The NIV reads: "But you, Bethlehem Ephratah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times." But Christ's divine nature has no "origin." The very thing that Micah5:2, the deity of Christ, that Christ is eternal, is denied in the translation.
Besides a weakening of the Bible's testimony to Christ's deity, the NIV is not faithful in its translation of key passages that set forth the propitiatory work of Christ. One such passage is Romans3:25, where the NIV changes "propitiation" to merely "sacrifice of atonement": "God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood." But this confuses atonement, which is the result of the work of Christ, with propitiation, which is what Christ does to accomplish atonement. And thus, the whole doctrine of "satisfaction," so thoroughly explained by the Heidelberg Catechism in Lord's Day 5, is lost.
The doctrine of Scripture is also weakened in the NIV. This is done, not so much in those passages which deal directly with Scripture's inspiration, such as IITimothy 3 and II Peter 1. But this is done especially when the Old Testament Scripture is being referred to or quoted in the New Testament. InActs3:18 and 21, for example, the NIV drops entirely the phrase "by the mouth of the prophets," a powerful testimony to divine inspiration that is lost to the reader. In Acts7:38, "oracles" (that is, a distinctly Divine utterance) is reduced simply to "words." The "for" is dropped at the beginning of Acts2:25. Lost is the important point that Jesus could not be held in the grave because Scripture had to be fulfilled. What is given as a reason for the resurrection is reduced to an unconnected fact.
There is a weakening of the doctrine of predestination in the NIV. Objectionable is the substitution in many place of "chosen" for "elect" and "election." "Election" is the traditional and confessional language of the church. Deliberately this language is avoided. Especially is there a weakening of the doctrine of reprobation. Jude4 is made to refer to wicked men whose condemnation was "written about long ago," rather than men "who were before of old ordained to this condemnation." In IPeter 2:8 they who stumble at the Word are only "destined" to this, rather than the much stronger "whereunto also they were appointed." And Proverbs16:4 is rendered, "The Lord works out everything for his own ends — even the wicked for a day of disaster," whereas the KJV reads, "The Lord hath made all things for himself: yea, even the wicked for the day of evil."
Clear testimony to the great truth of justification is weakened in places in the NIV translation. I refer the reader only to Romans1:16, 17. The KJV reads: "For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek. For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith." The NIV reads: "I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile. For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: 'The righteous will live by faith.' "
This is a bewildering translation! "A" righteousness from God. Is there more than one righteousness? Does the gospel merely set forth one of several possible ways to be righteous before God? And the NIV speaks of this righteousness as being "from" God, rather than "of" God, as it is in the original, which the KJV faithfully translates. This is a significant difference! Our righteousness is not only a righteousness "from" God, having its source in God. But it is a righteousness that is God's own righteousness, the very righteousness "of" God that is imputed to us. That is the wonder of justification.
The NIV makes concessions to Pre-millennialism and Dispensationalism in its translation. This is the case in Acts7:38, part of the speech of Stephen to the Jewish council before his martyrdom. The KJV reads: "This is he, that was in the church in the wilderness with the angel which spake to him in the Mount Sinai." The NIV reads: "He was in the assembly in the desert, with our fathers and with the angel who spoke to him on Mount Sinai." Deliberately the word "church," which in the Greek here is the well-known word "ekklesia," is changed to "assembly," and the repudiation of the Pre-millennial/Dispensational error that separates Old Testament Israel from the New Testament, Gentile church on the basis of Acts7:38 is lost.
Concession to the Pre-millennial/Dispensational notion of the "rapture" is also seen in the NIV rendering of the references to Christ's coming "quickly" (that is, how He comes), to His coming "soon" (that is, when He is coming).
Key passages that form the basis for the truth of infant baptism are mistranslated so as to weaken their support for this vital teaching of God's Word. This is especially true of the references to the household baptisms in the Book of Acts. Paedobaptists point to the apostolic practice of household baptism in support of the practice of infant baptism. In each instance, the NIV translates in such a way that everyone in these households believes and professes faith before baptism, rather than that the whole household is baptized on the basis of the faith of the head of the house.
In line with this, the NIV mistranslates Acts2:39 by omitting the "for" with which the verse begins. But in verse 39 Peter is giving the ground for the admonition given in verse 38, to repent and be baptized. "For," he says, "the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call." The NIV drops the "for," so that verse 39 is simply an unconnected statement of fact: "The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off — for all whom the Lord our God will call."
The NIV seriously weakens the Bible's teaching with respect to marriage, divorce, and remarriage. Prof. David Engelsma has pointed this out in an editorial in the Standard Bearer in connection with the NIV translation of ICorinthians 7:15, the changing of the words "not under bondage" to "not bound." 11 But there is more. In the gospel accounts, the Lord Jesus provides the one ground for divorce. That ground is fornication, unrepented-of fornication. Matthew19:9 in the KJV reads correctly: "And I say unto you, Whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery: and whoso marrieth her which is put away doth commit adultery." The NIV rendering is: "I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, and marries another woman commits adultery."
There are two things significant in the NIV rendering. The first is that the last phrase of the text is dropped, "... and whoso marrieth her which is put away doth commit adultery," a phrase that bears significantly on the issue of the remarriage of the so-called "innocent party." But besides that, "fornication" is changed to "marital unfaithfulness." There is a great deal of difference between fornication, sexual immorality, and marital unfaithfulness. It is true that all fornication is marital unfaithfulness, but not all marital unfaithfulness is fornication. Thus is the door opened to divorce on other grounds, many other grounds, than the one ground, fornication.
Besides these specific instances of mistranslation, there are a host of examples in the NIV of textual alterations, freewheeling translations that have no basis in the text, insertion of the translators' exegetical opinions, imprecise and ambiguous translation, and grammatical and syntactical changes made in the text.
Something must yet be said about the dropping of the pronouns "thee" and "thou" by the NIV in favor exclusively of "you" and "your." Two things about this. First, the forms "thee" and "thou" ought to be retained out of reverence for God. The NIV caters to the tendency to address God casually. Lost in the NIV is the dignity of the KJV that preserves these forms. In the second place, the dropping of "thee" and "thou" sacrifices the accuracy of the translation. In the Hebrew and Greek it is possible to distinguish between "you," singular, and "you," plural. With the exclusive use of the pronoun "you," it is not possible to distinguish singular and plural. This can be illustrated from Luke22:31, 32: "And the Lord said, Simon, Simon, behold Satan hath desired to have you (plural, referring to all the disciples) that he may sift you as wheat: But I have prayed for thee (singular, referring specifically to Peter), that thy faith fail not: and when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren."
SHOULD WE RETAIN THE KJV AS THE PREFERRED TRANSLATION?
This is our evaluation of the NIV. What yet about the question as to whether we should retain the KJV as the preferred translation?
My answer to that question is that without doubt the KJV ought today to be the version of choice among God's people in the English-speaking world. We ought to retain the KJV for personal use, in our own reading, study, and meditating on the Word of God as individual believers. It is the version we ought to use in our families, both for family worship and as parents in the instruction of our children. And this is the version that ought to be used by the church in her official preaching and teaching, and in worship. We ought not to replace the KJV by another version, the NIV or any other. We ought not to use another version alongside the KJV, a thing confusing for instruction and worship.
There are many reasons why the KJV ought to remain the preferred version.
First, and this chiefly, it is a faithful translation. It is a translation based solidly on the original text of Scripture. And it is a translation that faithfully renders into the English language the words of the text of Scripture. No one need doubt that when he holds in his hand the KJV, he holds in his hand the Word of God.
Secondly, the KJV is clear. All the critics of the KJV to the contrary notwithstanding, the KJV is characterized by clarity. Even Jack P. Lewis, a severe critic of the KJV, concedes this, undoubtedly in a weaker moment: the "... major portion of the KJV is understandable to any person who reads English...." 12
Certainly our own experience bears this out. Our children are able to read and to understand the KJV. And over the years the KJV has proven its clarity by its use in missions among those who are able to understand English, in our own country and abroad.
Third, the KJV is eminently readable — not only understandable but readable. There is a dignified, eloquent, free-flowing style about the KJV that makes it readable, in distinction, on the one hand, from the stiffness of some of the modern version, and, on the other hand, from the jerky slang of the paraphrases. There is a beauty about the KJV that puts it in a class by itself.
Fourth, besides being understandable and readable, the KJV is, more than any other version, suited for memorization. We must be able to read it and understand it; but we must also be able to retain it. Christians have always placed a premium on memorizing the Scriptures and portions of the Scripture. More than any other version, the KJV is suited for memorization. Recently Christian History magazine sang the praises of the KJV in this regard:
"There is a cadence, a sentence rhythm in the KJV that has never been matched in other English Bibles. If this beauty has detracted some readers from hearing the message (a judgment with which we take issue, R.C.), it has nevertheless been incredibly memorable and, therefore, memorizable. If learning Scripture is important, then committing it to memory is paramount, and we know that poetry — or poetic prose — is easier to memorize than flat prose. Today, almost four hundred years later, most people who can quote the Bible quote a version published in 1611." 13
Let us retain the KJV. Let us retain it in such a way that we use it. Let us use it ourselves in our personal study of and searching of the Scriptures. Let us use it in our homes, for our family devotions and for the teaching of our children. Let us use it in the Christian schools, in the instruction given there. Let us use it in our worship, in the preaching and teaching of the church. Let us use it in the seminary and on the mission field. And using it, let us continue to enjoy the blessed fruit of its use enjoyed by the church now for nearly four centuries.
- Philip Edgecumbe Hughes, Theology Of The English Reformers (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1965), p. 13. 
- A. Skevington Wood, Captive To The Word (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1969), p. 98. 
- Jack P. Lewis, The English Bible From KJV To NIV (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1991), p. 41. 
- ACTS 1980 Of The Synod Of The CRC, p. 254. 
- Ibid. 
- "Why Burton L. Goddard Calls NIV Unique," Eternity, March, 1974, p. 62. 
- ACTS 1980 Of The Synod Of The CRC, p. 258. 
- Ibid. 
- David Otis Fuller, ed., Which Bible? (Grand Rapids: Grand Rapids International Publications, 1980), p. 4. 
- Martin Luther, "On Translating: An Open Letter," in Works Of Martin Luther (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1982), p. 10. 
- Prof. David Engelsma, "The Bible Version Of The Churches," in The Standard Bearer, Feb. 15, 1994, p. 222. 
- Ibid., p. 53. 
- Christian History, Issue 28 (Vol. IX, No. 4), p. 43. 
Rev. Ronald Cammenga (Wife; Rhonda)
Ordained: September 1979
Pastorates: Hull, IA - 1979; Loveland, CO - 1984; Southwest, Grandville, MI - 1993; Faith, Jenison, MI - 2004; PR Seminary - 2005Website: www.sermonaudio.com/search.asp?speakeronly=true&currsection=sermonsspeaker&keyword=Prof._Ronald_Cammenga
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